Viewing Filtering From The Outside

When library professionals get together and talk internet filtering, we often forget something vitally important. Sure we talk about freedom of access, how filtering supposedly coincides with collection development policies, and how to protect our patrons and such like.

One thing that seldom gets brought up, at least in conversations I've been privy to is "So, what do our patrons actually think about our filtering?" And it's kind of rare to see any input from the outside, you know, from the people we're actually supposed to be serving.

Twanna Hines is not a librarian. She's a Funky Brown Chick. She's a writer, an occupation I think we can all say we know something about. She lives in New York City and writes about dating, sex, and relationships. And as a patron, she was appalled to find out that the New York Public Library filters her site.

I have to wonder, how many of us can access the above links at work? And does it say anything about filtering when some of us might have to go home to read about what people think about filtering?


My company filters her site also. I'm at work and can't read it!

I think it was pretty bad, anyway. Like some hip stuff from 2002. Is there a "crap" filter?

Hi.....just to report on how the filter operates at NYPL, in case you didn't see my comments on the FBC blog site....

So NYPL doesn't actually block any site (with the exception of children's room computers) If you visit a site that has been "flagged" by our filter, you get a screen that warns you about the content you are about to view. You then have the option of viewing it anyway, or leaving the site. You also have the option of saying "hey, this site is fine and shouldn't be blocked." The site is checked by staff, and then put on the "do not filter" list.

It is actually a pretty cool system, spoken by one who was dead set against filtering when this all started.

And btw, the FBC site is no longer blocked.

I am, of course, speaking for myself alone and not on behalf of NYPL in any official capacity. Standard disclaimers apply.

It seems vulgar to me - in many senses. The language is vulgar, the site is pedestrian and coarse.

Perhaps it is what her readers expect, and perhaps that is the appropriate tone for her audience, but it seems that as she is a self proclaimed writer a better grasp of the language would serve her and her readers better.

I am not a twenty something black woman, but I guess that is how they wish to be spoken to. How unfortunate.

Perhaps the filters at NYPL just screen for good taste? No that is too much to ask. If that were possible I'd install them at home.

She writes about sex. And sex, sometimes, can be vulgar. What should she do, use childish euphemisms so as not to offend delicate sensibilities?

I'm not actually surprised that the filter flagged her site, but I'm more surprised that this happened in the New York Public library. It isn't flagged at our library (Vancouver, BC), but then again, the only filters we have on our terminals are in the children's area. All others are completely unfiltered.

I haven't visited her site...yes we "filter" but anyone with Adult viewing access who wants to view her site (or any other that is legal) may ask us to remove the filters, which we happily do.

The fact that no one has asked to have filters removed since the day we put them on says a bit about our internet users.

Mi Takuye Oyacin

Hi, I'm Twanna. Thank you for writing about this incident; I appreciate the opportunity to be part of the ongoing discussion about libraries and internet filtering.

To correct one of the comments above, I am 33 years old. That said, I'm always flattered when people mistakenly assume I am younger based on images of my face as well as my grasp of the Internet / online technologies. I take it as a compliment.

Regarding my audience, my site readers are not restricted to twenty-something black women. Indeed, Tango magazine praised the blog noting it "hits home with a wide range of audiences" and I have the stats to prove it. The majority of my readers, 70%, are white and 54% are male. Stay-at-home Latina moms in Oklahoma, black college students in Kansas and white surfer dudes in Canada read my blog. I think that speaks volumes about the human condition; our experiences are more similar than they are different.

Having said all this, please note my recent commentary on this incident -- indeed, on internet censorship in general -- are now published in a Huffington Post piece, "I'm a Writer, Not a Child Pornographer."

Ignoring negative, subjective 'her writing is crap' bickering, I am glad to take part in a productive, ongoing discussion about libraries and internet filtering. If you share that goal, I invite you to continue the dialogue.

It saddens me that these disparaging remarks were made by librarians, members of a profession dedicated to unimpeded access to information and culture. Ms. Hine's blog is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and well written columns on the topic of romantic and sexual relationships. The way chuck and mdoneil dismissively malign the website and its author reveals their ignorance and prudishness.

You are completely correct. I should have not bothered to look at it and form my own opinion.

If I don't like it, I must be ignorant and prudish.

Of course the author of could have simply followed the instructions on the computer regarding to filtering, or if perchance the instructions have been removed by another patron they were presented when she got her card, or they can be accessed here, or failing all of those she could ask a librarian. You know those people you feel are responsible for unimpeded access to information (and culture but I am not sure where you got that).

The NYPL in consultation with the community has put the filters in place, and developed a policy to address the concerns of users who wish unfiltered access. It seems funkybrownchick just wanted to whine, use vulgar language, and discuss onanism.

But we know that anyone that does not share your opinions is ignorant and prudish, so perhaps the NYPL could hire you to tell them which websites to block.

First, your original comment did express your opinion in a slightly better form than Chuck. You attempted to explain the reasons you disliked the website, i.e. course and vulgar. But then you just reiterate Chuck's sentiments by saying that the filters just "screen for good taste".

I wouldn't go so far as to say either you or Chuck are ignorant or prudish. I wouldn't know since I don't know either of you. But I would say that your "disparaging remarks" undermine whatever it is that you were trying to actually say.

"If I don't like it, I don't like it. That don't mean I'm hatin'." -Common

Am I to understand that you have you like everything written, produced, filmed, aired, recorded and photographed since electricity in order to be enlightened? If everything is a good as everything else, why bother? Then what is the difference between Ms. Hines blog and a field of pumpkins? Or a re-run of "Webster?" Is all good, right?

Some writers are thin-skinned. My criticism was that Ms. Hines' writing is everyday, wordy and flat. Her premise and tone are played out (as the kids say.) Hip, big-city, dating and sex blogs are as old as the last term of the Clinton administration. Her writing does nothing to distinguish itself from the rest.

For the record, I dislike Ms. Hines blog because I don't think it's very good. Not because it can be explicit or is about sex education.

Dan Savage, Go Ask Alice, Ask Isadora and others do this kind of thing better. I would refer my patrons to them, if asked.

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